Riverdale, Toronto

Aerial shot of Riverdale, 31 December 1941

Riverdale is a large neighbourhood of Toronto. Its boundaries are Lake Shore Blvd. (south), the Don River Valley (west), Greektown and Danforth Ave. (north), and the Jones Ave. section of the Canadian National Railway and GO Transit tracks in Leslieville (east).

It was annexed to Toronto in 1884, and has long been known as very multicultural. This was a neighbourhood many immigrants came to—Irish, Greek, Russian, Italian, German, Polish, Finnish, Ukrainian, British, Chinese.

Many Riverdale houses are Victorian and Edwardian, having started life as boarding houses for the proletariat in the 19th century. Sadly, since gentrification has struck, many long-time residents have been priced out and replaced by hipsters and the bourgeoisie.

Lower Riverdale contains the neighbourhood’s six original houses on the west end of Simpson Ave. They’re known as The Six Sisters.

29 July 1931, looking north on Carlaw Ave. at Gerrard St.

18 October 1912, Danforth Ave. at Don Mills Rd. (now Broadview Ave.), looking west

7 July 1913, northwest corner of Danforth Ave. and Don Mills Rd. (now Broadview Ave.)

Riverdale contains many sub-neighbourhoods:

Lower Riverdale (the oldest section, with many original houses)
Upper Riverdale (most likely to have modern, renovated houses)
East Chinatown (Toronto’s next-largest Chinatown)
Badgerow (contains a Sikh temple, the legendary Maple Leaf tavern, a Jewish cemetery, Gerrard Square’s shopping mall, and a Turkish cultural centre)
Studio District (southern area of South Riverdale, with many vintage Victorian houses; a major film, TV, and arts district)
Riverside (a.k.a. Queen Broadview Village) (in South Riverdale, with many historic buildings and cultural landmarks; now undergoing gentrification and becoming known as a district of restaurants, food and furniture retailers, and independent designers)
Blake-Jones (houses built from the 1870s–1930s, rather affordable but seeing an uptick in crime and unemployment)
The Pocket (located within Blake-Jones; said to feel like a village, and undergoing more gentrification)

29 February 1932, Danforth Ave. at Logan Ave., looking east

1 January 1930, southwest corner of Danforth Ave. and Logan Ave., Tony Greco and mother’s fruit stand

Riverdale contains many schools, including Riverdale Collegiate Institute, a high school founded in 1907 as Riverdale Technical School. Another historic school is Holy Name Catholic School, founded in 1913 by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Parks include Withrow Park (with an ice rink, soccer field, and two baseball diamonds); Riverdale Park (with a running track, ice rink, swimming pool, three baseball diamonds, and tennis courts); Jimmy Simpson Park (with a community centre and tennis courts); the Royal Canadian Curling Club; Hubbard Park; and Kempton Howard Park (formerly East View Park).

Riverdale Park, looking south, Copyright Inkey

Detail of reconstructed Broadview Hotel, Copyright JasonParis; Source

Broadview Hotel in 1945

Other landmarks include The Opera House (opened 1909); Bridgepoint Health (founded 1875 and  going through many names); the Ralph Thornton Community Centre (opened 1913); Don Jail (opened 1864); the Cranfield House (built 1902); and St. John’s Presbyterian Church.

Don Jail, Copyright Nadiatalent

My characters Lena Yeltsina and Antonina Petrova settle in Riverdale with their newfound surrogate mother Sonya Gorbachëva when they escape Russia in 1920. Lena is soon reunited with her young son Yuriy, who’s been languishing in a Manhattan orphanage, and takes him back to Toronto under the ruse of Sonya being the mother.

In 1921, Lena’s little sister Natalya comes to America, and joins her in Canada as soon as possible. When their mother and two much-older sisters arrive in New York in January 1924, Lena explains their life is in Canada now, and that after so many years of separation, Natalya doesn’t know them.

Lena and Natalya stay in close touch with their mother and older sisters, and create a very happy life in Toronto. In 1927, they’re joined by Sonya’s niece, Naina Yezhova, and her best friend Katya Chernomyrdina, the daughter of Sonya’s own best friend.

Who Will Stand, Who Will Fall? (Weekdays Roman Slant)

(Quick note: This is another font I downloaded, not one that came with the computer. The pre-existing Roman font, Wide Latin, was too big and bold, and hard to look at for extended periods.)

Font: Weekdays Roman Slant

Chapter: “Who Will Stand, Who Will Fall?”

Book: You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan

Written: August 2001

Computer created on: The ’99 Mac we had

File format: ClarisWorks

This is the 42nd and final chapter of my first Russian historical novel, barring the short Epilogue. It was one of the numerous chapters that didn’t have a name till I finally had access to the files again a decade after finishing the book. The title comes from a line in the George Harrison song “The Lord Loves the One (Who Loves the Lord),” the first song on Side Two of his incredible Living in the Material World.

It’s set over one long day in March 1924, the long-awaited court battle for paternal rights over Tatyana. Over the course of the seven years of the book, Boris has made an enemy of all his former friends, and picked up some new enemies along the way. The only people on his side are his priest, Father Spiridon, and Father Spiridon’s overly pious daughter Granyechka, his former fiancée. Even they admit he’s not exactly a moral paragon. And when Boris calls Anastasiya as a surprise witness, she makes a complete fool of herself and unintentionally delivers one of the final nails in his coffin.

The final nail is delivered by Tatyana herself, who has no idea until the eve of her 18th birthday in 1937 that Boris is really her blood father. Even though he’s the antagonist of the book and deserves everything he gets, as his creator, I felt pretty sorry for him in his final scene. He’s been an awful human being, but his love for his only child is the real deal. Those are not crocodile tears.

Some highlights:

“Why did Konev have to be the plaintiff?” Borís begins whining to his lawyer and Father Spiridon. “Now I look like the bad guy to the judge because I’m the defendant, when I’m the one who had the better case, wanting to take him to court to force him to give me back my daughter! Konev went and beat me to it, just like a spoilt child!”

“Even if you lose your case today, at least God will forgive you,” Grányechka whispers.

[The first character witness, 17-year-old Lena Yeltsina] “One hundred percent.  In my eyes that man is pure evil and has no business having children, not even adopted ones.  I hope he burns in Hell for having kidnapped my son.”

Iván looks away in horror when he sees Katrin breastfeeding Oliivia for the whole world to see.  She sits down in the witness stand, oblivious to the gasps of horror.

“You can answer affirmatively,” the judge announces. “I’m a very alcohol-friendly judge and despise Prohibition.”

Anastásiya reverts back to biting her nails after she’s sworn in.  She lowers her gaze from that of Borís’s lawyer, feeling he’s looking at the lower-than-usual neckline Katrin has finally persuaded her to start donning in place of her last-generation outfits revealing usually not a micrometer of flesh except for her face and hands.

Anastásiya turns bright purple in horror. “What do you take me for, some immodest little flapper who exposes her knees and elbows and goes around driving cars?  I have never engaged in any immoral behavior such as that!”

“I hope you take the fifth too when they start asking you the hard questions.” His lawyer rises. “The defense is going to call Borís Aleksándrovich Malenkov to the stand.”

“I despise you.  I would’ve trusted Mísha more to raise his son alone than I would ever trust you to raise any child.” Léna coldly turns away.

Borís, fearing being arrested if he doesn’t instantly comply, signs away all his paternal rights over Tatyana and stands off to the side as Iván and Lyuba sign the document.  When they’re back at their seats, Borís falls onto his knees and then down into the kowtowing position sobbing hysterically, like an infant.  Grányechka, Father Spiridon, and the lawyer all move away, slightly embarrassed.

“Look at that fat short man, crying like it’s the end of the world,” Katrin says haughtily. “Of course I don’t hold any grudge against his mother for comforting him, but he has to show some restraint when he knew damn well this was coming!”

Anastásiya, turning green in jealousy, runs out of the courtroom and hails a carriage going her way, longing for the moment when she can drown the day’s sorrows and humiliations by gazing at her pictures of Rudy and Dmítriy, men who may be unattainable but who at least won’t use her to make another woman jealous.